Arsenal close in on top four spot after seeing off West Ham challenge

Leicester claim vital three points against Hull; Newcastle add to Everton woes; Mame Biram Diouf’s double seals Stoke win

 Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck celebrates scoring a goal in the  Premier League game against West Ham United at the Boleyn Ground. Photograph: Sean Dempsey/EPA

Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck celebrates scoring a goal in the Premier League game against West Ham United at the Boleyn Ground. Photograph: Sean Dempsey/EPA

 

Premier League round-up: Arsenal battled to a 2-1 win at West Ham to close in on the top four of the Premier League.

The Irons, who had started the day in fifth place, saw an early long-range effort from midfielder Alex Song ruled out for offside before Arsenal went ahead on 41 minutes through a penalty from Santi Cazorla,

The visitors doubled their lead before half-time with a close-range finish from Danny Welbeck.

A header by Cheikhou Kouyate reduced the deficit at the start of the second half and Arsenal had to withstand plenty of pressure, but they also forced a string of fine saves from Adrian on the break as they held out to move level with Southampton, whom they play on New Year’s Day.

Newcastle came from a goal down against struggling Everton to win 3-2 and end a run of four straight defeats in all competitions.

Everton, who have now won only once in their last eight in all competitions, took a fifth-minute lead when Arouna Kone converted Seamus Coleman’s cross.

It was the injury-hit Ivorian’s first goal since his move from Wigan in the summer of 2013 on what was the occasion of his first Premier League start for the club.

Papiss Cisse had escaped with a suspect elbow on Coleman but the Senegal striker’s ninth goal of the season levelled matters after 34 minutes and Ayoze Perez put Newcastle in front six minutes after the re-start.

Jack Colback gave Alan Pardew’s men a two-goal cushion with his first Newcastle goal after 68 minutes before Kevin Mirallas pulled one back for Everton six minutes from time to set up a grandstand finish.

Leicester clung on by their fingertips to a first victory in 14 Premier League matches with a 1-0 triumph at Hull, easing some of the pressure on manager Nigel Pearson and ensuring the Tigers remain mired in the relegation battle.

Both sides finished with 10 men after late red cards for Paul Konchesky (second yellow) and Republic of Ireland midfielder Stephen Quinn, for a deliberate handball to deny David Nugent.

But it was the 32nd minute strike by Riyad Mahrez that settled matters in the visitors favour.

The Foxes were at times passengers in a low-quality contest but given their current plight this 1-0 win will taste every bit as good as their previous success, a headline-grabbing 5-3 over Manchester United in September.

Alan Irvine’s days as West Brom head coach could be numbered after Mame Biram Diouf’s second-half brace condemned the Baggies to a 2-0 defeat at Stoke.

Diouf slotted home in the 51st minute before a lucky deflection off the Senegal forward from Marko Arnautovic’s shot 15 minutes later took the ball past Ben Foster once again.

West Brom had put in a creditable away performance up to that point without being able to convert it into goals, and came agonisingly close to scoring between Diouf’s two efforts as Gareth McAuley hit the post.

But the simple fact was that the Baggies had suffered a seventh loss in nine Premier League matches, and Irvine’s fears about his job will only have deepened.

Albion are now 16th, just a point clear of the relegation zone, and at the end of a fairly wretched 2014 the club may well be ready for a change at the helm once again.

Things look far rosier for Stoke, who are up to 10th having registered back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.

Aston Villa held Sunderland to a 0-0 draw despite going down to 10 men for the third time in four games.

Fabian Delph became the third Villa player to be sent off this month when he saw red for a late foul on Jordi Gomez early in the second half.

But Sunderland, who have drawn 11 times in the league, failed to cash in on their advantage, although Gomez slammed the post with three minutes left.

Jack Grealish shot wide for Villa and Costel Pantilimon saved Ron Vlaar’s deflected header.

Nothing could separate the sides, though, and they both remain in mid-table.

Crystal Palace caretaker manager Keith Millen was unable to steer his side out of the Premier League relegation zone as the Eagles began life after Neil Warnock with a goalless draw at QPR.

Millen, who was asked to be in charge of the game at Loftus Road little over 24 hours before kick-off, would have been pleased with his side’s endeavour but a lack of quality at both ends meant neither team were able to carve out a decisive chance.

Jason Puncheon went closest when his curling shot hit the post in the first half and Rangers also had opportunities in the second period but a lack of quality finishing meant Harry Redknapp’s men failed to secure a fourth consecutive home victory.

Rangers may have felt Palace would be there for the taking after Warnock was relieved of his duties following just one win in 12 matches, but there were no signs of despondency from the Eagles, who seemed eager to impress their new boss from the outset.

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